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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the 2010 Small Business Environmental Conference, As Prepared

As prepared for delivery.

I’m happy to have the chance to welcome you today. I want to use my time here to speak about a question before congress this week – a question that involves small businesses and our clean energy economy. But let me begin by saying that in the last 18 months this administration has been working to strengthen the prospects for American small businesses.

We are facing the worst economic challenges of any generation since World War II. The recovery we envision is a recovery focused on Main Street – a recovery that provides economic security through good wages, affordable health care, and a strong, stable horizon for investing in new businesses, new ideas and new workers. We know that at the core of that recovery are American small businesses. That’s why these first months have been full of bold steps to help you prosper.

The needs of small business have also factored into the response in the Gulf. The worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history is also an economic catastrophe for the small business there – the fishers and shrimpers and restaurant owners who live off the resources of the water. There are billions of dollars and thousands of jobs at stake in travel, tourism, food and other industries. Because those industries make up the foundation of these economies, those effects can be expected to ripple outwards. President Obama has made clear to BP that the protection and compensation of small businesses is a priority. In a meeting I attended with the President last Friday, he said in no uncertain terms that the needs of the people and the businesses in that area come before the needs of BP shareholders.

When it comes to the environmental issues you are here to discuss, small businesses play a critical role as the drivers of innovation. Today we’re honoring innovative small businesses that are leading the way – like the Dull Homestead, a family farm in Brookville, Ohio. The first wind generator went up on the Homestead in 2004. Today there are six wind turbines, a fuel cell generator, geothermal and biomass heating, and other renewable energy technologies. That work earned the Dull Homestead the small business environmental stewardship award.

We also see innovative products like Greensulate from Ecovative Design in New York. Greensulate is a natural form of insulation made from locally-grown materials. They use rice hulls from the Midwest, or cotton burrs from the South – keeping costs and transportation emissions down. Unlike most insulation that gives off significant CO2 emissions during production, Greensulate is organically grown, not manufactured. And the idea began as a spark in the mind of an entrepreneur, an idea that moved from the drawing board to the market place with the help of a Small Business Innovation Research grant.

These are the kinds of innovations that have allowed us to grow our economy and protect our environment. In the last 30 years, emissions of six dangerous air pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, lead poisoning and more decreased 54 percent. At the same time, gross domestic product grew by 126 percent. That means we made huge reductions in air pollution at the same time that more cars went on the road, more power plants went on line and more buildings went up. That kind of progress only happens when innovations are encouraged to take shape and take hold – and our nation’s best innovators come from our small businesses.

So – at a time of extraordinary challenges, this administration and this EPA are working to ensure that the foundations you need to thrive are strong and protected. As the drivers of economic growth and technological innovation, we also want to ensure that you have the resources and the flexibility you need to invest in new directions. That is what “Expanding Partnerships to Meet the Changing Regulatory Landscape is All About.” Which brings me to the question before Congress this week.

In two days, the Senate is scheduled take a vote that will have a significant impact on our regulatory future. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has proposed a resolution of disapproval of EPA’s endangerment finding on greenhouse gases. As you know, EPA followed both the science and the Supreme Court last year to issue a finding that greenhouse gases pose a threat to our health and welfare. That was a historic decision. And it obligated our agency to find ways of reducing greenhouse gas pollution under the Clean Air Act.

Supporters of Senator Murkowski’s resolution, including the oil industry and their lobbyists, claim that the endangerment finding will force small businesses – restaurants, coffee shops and mom-and-pop stores – to comply with burdensome, potentially bankrupting regulations. I hope the small business owners in this room will be sure and write to the big oil companies to thank them for looking out for the little guys and taking up this noble cause. However, I have to say I agree with their concerns. I know that the local Starbucks and the backyard grill are no places to look for meaningful CO2 reductions. That is why – before we issued the endangerment finding – EPA went to work on a rule that protects small businesses. Under what we call the tailoring rule, small sources would be exempted from regulations for the next six years. That should be more than enough time for Congress to pass a law with permanent exemptions.

Senator Murkowski’s resolution would undermine that common sense approach. It would take away EPA's ability to take action on climate change. And it would ignore and override scientific findings, allowing big oil companies, big refineries and others to continue to pollute without any oversight or consequence. Finally, it will result in exactly zero protections for small businesses.

What is will do is move America a big step backward in the race for clean energy. It will double down on the energy and environmental policies that feed our oil addiction. That addiction to oil pollutes the air we breathe. It sends billions of our dollars to foreign countries. And it leaves American small businesses and American drivers at the mercy of fuel price spikes, like the $4 a gallon prices we were paying not so long ago. The BP oil spill is a tragic reminder of the hazards of our oil addiction. It highlights just how important it is that we keep moving America forward, into energy independence.

For those reasons and more, we've taken significant steps forward. In addition to the tailoring rule, EPA joined President Obama, automakers, the Department of Transportation, governors from across the country and environmental advocates to craft an historic agreement. The clean cars program that we built will make American cars more fuel efficient than ever and cut oil consumption by billions of barrels. It will also mean new innovations.

American scientists can step up to produce new composite materials that make cars lighter, safer and more fuel efficient. Our inventors and entrepreneurs can take the lead in advanced battery technology for plug-in hybrids and electric cars. And manufacturers across the country can produce these new components – which they can then sell to automakers in the US and around the globe.

The Murkowski resolution would gut EPA's authority in the clean cars program. Our dependence on oil would grow by 455 million barrels. That dependence rises to billions of barrels when you factor in the effect on a follow-on program that expands fuel efficiency to heavy-duty vehicles and extends beyond the 2016 model year. Undermining a program supported by our automakers and autoworkers, environmentalists and governors from across the country seems questionable at any time. But going back to a failed approach and deepening our oil addiction at the very moment a massive spill – the largest environmental disaster in American history – is devastating families and businesses and destroying wetlands is contrary to our national interests.

This is happening despite the overwhelming science on the dangers of climate change, despite the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision that EPA must use the Clean Air Act to reduce the proven threat of greenhouse gases, and despite the fact that leaving this problem for our children to solve is an act of breathtaking negligence.

Supposedly these efforts have been put forward to protect jobs. In reality, they will have serious negative economic effects. The clean cars program could be put on indefinite hold, leaving American automakers once again facing a patchwork of state standards. Without a clear picture of greenhouse gas regulations, there will be little incentive to invest in clean energy jobs. America will fall further behind our international competitors in the race for clean energy innovation. Finally, the economic costs of unchecked climate change will be orders of magnitude higher for the next generation than it would be for us to take action today.

I can’t in good conscience support any measure that passes that burden on to my two sons, and to their children. I find it hard to believe that any parent could say to their child, “We’re going to wait to act.” It ignores the responsibility we have to move the country forward in a way that creates jobs, increases our security by breaking our dependence on foreign oil, and protects the air and water we rely on.

At no point in our history has any problem been solved by waiting another year to act or burying our heads in the sand. Our oil addiction is not going to go away unless we act. Now is not the time to go back. Rather than increasing our addiction, we need to keep moving America forward into a clean energy future. As we move forward, we’ll need the help of our small business community – our nation’s innovators and job creators. Your cooperation and coordination are vital to meeting both our economic and our environmental goals. I look forward to working with you. Thank you.